Millions of Kenyans have been unable to get national identity cards in the past five months because paper that these cards are printed on have run out.
At the same time, the Government has lost millions of shillings after it changed the supplier of these registration forms. The French consortium that had been contracted supply special paper for the registration forms was arbitrarily replaced by a local company with no capacity to produce these papers. And although expensive papers were purchased, costing the tax payer millions of shillings, no registration forms have been produced. A French firm, which works in conjunction with a local supplier, was contracted by the government to supply computers and produce new generation ID cards in 1995. The two firms have been overseeing the servicing of computers and production of special papers for IDs, namely Form 101, 136A and 136C. Form 136C is a computer-generated paper programmed to tally with the French firm's machines. The machines are bar-coded and reject forms not produced by the firm. During the application of an identity card, the forms have to be signed by the recipient of the ID whose fingers prints are engraved on this special paper before it is embossed. The French company's services were retained when Narc came to power in 2003 but were terminated last year when the government announced that new generation identity cards were to be introduced to curb forgeries. Due to the hitch, no production of registration forms has been going on for the last five months, inconveniencing ID applicants.
Hundreds of thousands of applicants, aged 18 years and above, who have been visiting registration centres in the country's 77 districts have been turned away and asked to “try again next week.” The applicants, most of them young people out of secondary school, and their parents are now desperate, especially since the document is required for almost all official transactions. But the biggest inconvenience is police harassment as security agents on the beat often demand to be shown IDs to forestall arrest. All Kenyans aged 18 years and above are required by law to have a national ID card showing that they are citizens. To get the document, they must produce either a birth certificate and other testimonials such as a baptism card or letter from a chief as proof of having been born in the country. These are also hard to come by.